Power Twins Unite: Francois and Louis Moutin
AAJ: I’m quite interested in the development of the French jazz scene that you were talking about. First of all, we’re seeing a stream of really fantastic players coming over from Paris. You and your brother. Jean-Michel Pilc. What’s happening over there?
FM: For many years there’s been a growing jazz scene in Paris. I would assume that it started after the war. There were a good deal of jazz lovers before the last world war, but then when the American army came in...they were like saviors. And jazz music became one of the symbols, so more and more jazz fans appeared in Europe and especially in Paris. Jazz clubs started to open. There were a good number of clubs in the fifties in Paris and because of that some musicians began to play jazz. At first it was, well, what it could be, but over the years it became more and more, and I think in the seventies we had some good players—though the seventies was a little hard for jazz players because of the whole rock and roll thing—but still people like Martial Solal were really great players proving the French could be the equal of American players.
It took a certain time, but through the eighties a lot of these older French jazz musicians managed to have conservatories and music schools trying to have jazz programs. This really opened the way for young musicians to play jazz and by the end of the eighties there were a good number of great young, French jazz musicians on the scene. Now the main conservatory in France has a very well-developed jazz program and there are new jazz musicians coming on the scene every year that really are astounding. So Paris is really a great jazz scene. Since the seventies there have been a lot of clubs. Some of them are closing, but it is a little bit like New York in reduction. It’s not as many musicians, not as many clubs, but the quality matches, I think.
AAJ: At least from an American jazz fan’s perspective there’s always been a connection...
FM: ...with Paris.
AAJ: Exactly. There’s always been this back and forth between the American and the Parisian jazz culture, and a very strong interest. Can we locate a French jazz stream? Is there any stylistic difference in what’s coming out of Paris today?
FM: I wouldn’t say so. I think jazz today has become a world phenomenon. It’s not that much different. I mean, you find in Paris, just like in New York, you find modernists and people who are really like bebop enthusiasts—there are still people who would insist bebop is not jazz and that real jazz is the jazz of the thirties and the twenties, but of course there are modernists, musicians that want to open new ways and all these schools are existing in Paris as well as in New York. So I wouldn’t say the different colors are because they are coming from Paris instead of New York. It’s becoming a world phenomenon now. And it’s not only Paris.
It’s Stockholm, Tokyo, Africa. Jazz players have always been inspired by their popular musical culture...but there isn’t a specific French way. I mean, to my ear. I know I disagree with some people in that. But to my ear, no. It’s always been jazz. It actually varies all the time. I don’t want to be from one style, or era, to focus only on the bebop area. It’s very open to me.
AAJ: Why did you choose to come to New York?
FM: Yeah, yeah. It’s a very good question. Although I told you the Paris scene is very rich, artistically very rich. First of all, I was lucky enough that about four years after I became a professional jazz musician, Marstial Solal hired me...and this was the best jazz gig in France. In terms of combining good income and playing great music...So I was kind of comfortable. Doing great. But trying to have projects under my name, and with my brother, that was harder. I kind of got the message that, ‘Hey, you’re playing with Marstial Solal, you’ve got the best gigs, why do you young guys want to have your own music? You’re young. Wait. Take your place in the line.’ You know?